Title: The rhetoric of personal carbon offset accounting

Authors: Larita Killian

Addresses: Indiana University at Columbus, 4601 Central Avenue, Columbus, IN 47203, USA

Abstract: Many organisations and individuals are concerned about the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and resulting, perhaps catastrophic climate change. Daily activities such as heating homes and flying on airplanes are imbued with moral and ethical significance because of their suspected role in climate change. In response to these concerns, many individuals purchase carbon offsets to neutralise the effects of their activities. Offsets have technical, behavioural, and ethical problems; in some circumstances they may actually increase rather than decrease greenhouse gases. This does not mean, however, that carbon offsets are without value. The purchase of carbon offsets is a discursive activity that fulfils a rhetorical role. The offset market helps individuals navigate the conflicting moral and ethical demands confronting them. The purchase of carbon offsets resembles the early days of double-entry accounting in that it is more rhetorical than referential. Carbon offsets demonstrate that accounting retains its rhetorical value.

Keywords: offset accounting; carbon offsets; organisations; greenhouse gases; GHG emissions; climate change; rhetorical value; personal carbon offsetting; moral demands; ethical demands.

DOI: 10.1504/IJCA.2013.059026

International Journal of Critical Accounting, 2013 Vol.5 No.6, pp.663 - 670

Published online: 29 Apr 2014 *

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